My Favorite Child

My Favorite Child

A father's Sixties home movies about his disabled son resurface decades later to help create a celebrated film of the grown man's life and family.

Born with Down syndrome, Dwight Core Jr. was cherished by his parents and four older sisters. Core’s father, Dwight Core Sr., took home movies of his son during childhood and recorded voiceovers of his own thoughts and the imagined thoughts of his young, disabled boy. Decades later the elder Core’s grandson found and restored that footage. He used it, along with contemporary video of the now-adult Core, Jr., to create a documentary that was praised at film festivals for its honest portrayal of the lives of the disabled during an era of mental institutions. In 2006, the Library of Congress chose the documentary from hundreds of films to be preserved in the National Film Registry.

The documentary “Think of Me First as a Person” chronicles Core’s family’s love and affection for him and their heartbreak at sending him away to an institution in the 1960s. It was painfully difficult for the whole family when it was recommended that the boy, age 6, be placed in a Lynchburg “training school” for children with mental disabilities. Schools at the time were not required to offer special education and his parents were told the institution would be the best place for him.

This two-part video by the Virginian-Pilot combines footage from the home movies with present-day video and interviews with Core and his sister, Cindy, with whom he lived before dying of multiple organ failure in Oct. 2008.

Prepare for an emotionally touching story about love and family. In one particularly poignant scene, we see the chaos of dozens of boys playing at the Lynchburg institution and hear the voice-over of Core senior describing his guilt and heartbreak at leaving his son there. “I shall never forget the sight of that little boy, tears streaming down his face.”

Production, Videography and Editing: Roger M. Richards